fountain

fountain, natural or artificially conveyed flow of water. In ancient Greece columnar shrines were built over springs and dedicated to deities or nymphs. In ancient Rome fountains fed by the great aqueduct system furnished water in the streets, in the villa gardens, and in town houses. Though there were few public fountains in the Middle Ages, a number of beautiful examples remain, especially in Italy, where splendid Renaissance fountains, showing the full artistic exuberance of the period, are also found even in the smallest village square or the least pretentious villa. The development of the great 16th- and 17th-century villas, with their hillside gardens and natural water sources, called forth amazing ingenuity in water decoration. In the Villa d'Este at Tivoli and the villas at Frascati, near Rome, the various disposals of water constituted an integral element of the garden composition. In France the gardens of the palace of Versailles, designed by Le Nôtre, embodied a vast scheme of water adornment, with elaborate sculptural treatment. The supply, held in a reservoir at Marly, was raised 500 ft (152 m) above the Seine by machinery. The theatrical trend of the baroque period found expression also in fountains. In keeping with the animated postures of the sculptured nymphs, sea horses, and dolphins, the water issued splashing over the rims of the uppermost bowls and down upon artificial rocks and shells. A colossal figure of Neptune was a favorite motif, as in famous examples at Florence, Bologna, and Rome. Bernini designed one such fountain in Rome. He also planned the superbly simple fountains in St. Peter's Square and the dramatic fountains in the Piazza Navona. In 1762 one of the most famous and elaborate examples was completed, the fountain of Trevi. In sharp contrast with these are the fountains of Muslim countries, which instead of gushing water often emit an inconspicuous trickle. In their gardens the water lies in quiet pools and long, narrow channels. Of the Moorish fountains employing basins and sculpture, the Fountain of the Lions in the Alhambra, Granada, is the most famous. Invariably a fountain for ablutions stands in the courtyard of a mosque. In Middle Eastern cities the public fountains are entirely enclosed within structures richly finished in marbles and ceramics and with wide projecting roofs. Examples are numerous in İstanbul, Cairo, and Damascus. The modern public drinking fountain is usually of strictly utilitarian design. American architects and landscape artists, however, are encouraging the use of the ornamental fountain with definite success.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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